What else is wrong with Indiana?

That’s a bit unfair — this is something that’s wrong everywhere. It’s called faith. But Indiana did have one ghastly cult led by Hobart Freeman, called the Faith Assembly. They were serious about that word, faith — turning to a doctor for material help was a betrayal of your trust in god. You can guess what happened: people died.

Josh Wilson’s younger brother never had a chance at life. He died in the womb, moments before birth, an innocent casualty of an extreme religious sect.

Many children in Indiana in the 80’s suffered the same fate as Josh, faultless victims of a particularly extreme Christian sect called “Faith Assembly”. Hundreds of otherwise ordinary Indiana families blindly followed the teachings of the sect’s leader, Hobart Freeman.

This summer, survivor Josh and filmmaker Jack Pennington will track down those children of Faith Assembly to gather as many stories from as many survivors as possible. The final feature length documentary is scheduled for release in spring 2016.

This was a man who encouraged diabetics to give up their insulin, who discouraged pregnant women from getting prenatal care, or even from going to the hospital to give birth, and of course also told them to throw away their birth control and have lots of babies. He basically killed members of his congregation.

Daniel R. McConnell in A Different Gospel – A Historical and Biblical Analysis of the Modern Faith Movement says that (p81) "For sheer volume of death and tragedy, none can match the record of Hobart Freeman, pastor of Faith Assembly, Wilmot, Indiana. Estimates of the number of preventable deaths associated with Faith Assembly itself are as high as 90. The number of deaths nationwide caused by Freeman’s teaching on healing is not known." McConnell continues to say that (p96) "Besides Faith Assembly, Freeman ministered throughout the South in a network of sister churches based on his teaching. Although not to the same extent, these churches also experienced deaths due to non-treatment of sickness. The author is personally familiar with a tragic death as far south as Alabama in a church which practiced Freeman’s teaching."

The filmmakers are trying to raise money for this documentary. It sounds like a story that needs to be told.


  1. raven says

    This isn’t history. Faith Assembly might be gone but there are still many faith healing cults in the USA. It’s happening now.

    It’s just human child sacrifice to a monster god.

    Estimates are 100 children a year dead. Child mortality runs around 25% versus less than 1% for normal people. Some families have killed at least two of their kids.

    Two of the most notorious are Followers of Christ and General Assembly and Church of the First Born, both Mormon spinoffs and mostly in the western states.

  2. tomh says

    @ #1
    I’ve tracked the Followers of Christ in Oregon for some time, but I’ve never heard that they were a Mormon spinoff. Where is that from?

  3. chrislawson says

    raven@1: the official CDC figures show that child mortality in the US runs at 25.5 per 100,000 from ages 1-4, and 13.0 per 100,00 from ages 5-14. In percentages, that’s 0.025% and 0.013% respectively. I don’t know where you got the 25% mortality figure, so I don’t know how reliable it is, but if it’s in the ballpark that’s more than a 1000x increase in mortality.

  4. raven says

    Wikipedia General Assembly and Church of the First Born.

    During the 1850s he converted John L. Bartholf (1786–1867), an ex-Mormon elder, who after Joseph Smith’s demise had attached himself to James Strang and then fallen away even from Strang when the latter had espoused polygamy[citation needed].

    Bartholf was later to reaffirm himself into the leadership of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints[citation needed], but not until McDonald had married his daughter Jane in 1853, his first wife having died the year before(Ancestry). The McDonald family relocated to Ravanna, Missouri.

    As early as 1872, McDonald had made it as far as Nebraska having encountered Marion Reece and baptizing him. Over the next decade churches were established in Nebraska and Kansas with a great revival happening about 1876 in Arkansas City, Kansas.[3] This town later became the “port of entry” for those readying themselves for the Oklahoma land rush. By 1880, several hundred members existed in the state of Kansas,[4] though they always met in homes or school houses.[5][6] McDonald again relocated the remnant of his family, first to Chanute, then to Smith County, Kansas where he died in February 1891 as reported in a Wisconsin newspaper.

    Marion Reece (1844–1917), of Chanute, continued establishing churches after 1891 all through the state of Oklahoma, with around 30 churches existing to this day stemming from their activities[citation needed]. There was a migration after his death of many to Idaho(Ancestry), where they, although now split into several different sects, still hold to the name Followers of Christ.

    @2 Here is what wikipedia has to say. Marion Reece is sometimes considered the founder of Followers of Christ.

    It’s hard to untangle what these churches actually believe and where they came from. They are very, very secretive since human child sacrifice isn’t highly thought of these days.

    There are a lot of history type stories running around of unknown reliability and I haven’t cared enough to sort them out. It may not even be possible.

  5. A. R says

    Isn’t there a bit in the Bible forbidding child sacrifice? Of course, there’s also the bit that makes teenage behaviour a stoning offence…

  6. raven says

    I don’t know where you got the 25% mortality figure, so I don’t know how reliable it is, but if it’s in the ballpark that’s more than a 1000x increase in mortality.

    They get it mostly from counting child graves in cemeteries. These cults are very secretive.

    Fallen followers: Investigation finds 10 more dead children …

    Nov 7, 2013 – A former member of the Followers of Christ church advised KATU’s Dan Tilkin to go to Peaceful Valley Cemetery in Idaho and look for two specific names. … That’s more than 25 percent. … The state recently put together a child death review team, which will likely be looking at faith-healing deaths soon.

    To read a primary source, read this article.

  7. F.O. says

    Technology is so much around us that too many don’t realize the difference it makes.

  8. Esteleth, RN's job is to save your ass, not kiss it says


    To my mind, the epitome of people using religion to willfully ignore medicine is the FLDS and fumarase deficiency. Back in the day (i.e. the 1990s), there had only been thirteen cases of fumarase deficiency ever diagnosed, worldwide. Then it started appearing amongst the FLDS.

    It’s an autosomal recessive disorder featuring babies born seemingly healthy, who grow to develop mental retardation, seizures, brain malformations, and eventually a die a wasting death at a young age.

    Geneticists approached the FLDS and explained this to them, and indicated that – as the FLDS practice arranged marriage – the incidence of fumarase deficiency in their community could be kept to near-zero with relatively minimal effort. They pointed to the near-elimination of Tay-Sachs amongst the Askhenazi as an example of what genetic counseling could do.

    The FLDS told them to go away. It’s an article of faith amongst them that they are “pure.”

    Apparently, the graveyards in FLDS communities are full of the graves of children, buried in the past 20 years. Based on the estimated incidence rates and the size of the FLDS community, it seems that about 20% of the children born to the FLDS have fumarase deficiency – which means the allele has near-total penetrance and the window of opportunity to drive down the disease rate without extensive exogamy has closed.

  9. raven says

    which means the allele has near-total penetrance and the window of opportunity to drive down the disease rate without extensive exogamy has closed.

    1. It means they are inbred.

    The FLDS cemetery for babies has thousands of graves. No one knows who is in them or how they got there. They used to use faith healing but Utah and others talked them into getting a few doctors.

    2. Most of the faith healing cults are small and 3 or 4 heavily intermarried families. I thought they might be in danger of inbreeding.

    3. Then I saw some pictures of them. They all look eerily alike. More than even full siblings.

    It’s not the best data, but most likely some of them are heavily inbred.

  10. BobApril says

    Well, if we’re looking for faith problems in Indiana history, we might as well note that Rev. Jim Jones was a Hoosier and his Peoples Temple was founded in Indianapolis.